Attracting Bees: Keeping Your Raid Team

When I wrote yesterday’s post I was thinking of some past issues I’ve had with guild teams in keeping raiders pushing through content.  That led me to a whole kettle of thoughts on guilds and raiding — what to do in certain situations, how to keep raiders happy, how to fry your raid team — I even posted another shared topic on Blog Azeroth about it.  So this week will be dedicated to raiding teams and guilds, ending with my BA Topic post on Friday.

You attract more bees with sugar than vinegar.

That’s the old maxim for building personal and team relationships — positive reinforcement trumps negative in any debate over what options are best for encouraging, building, and succeeding with players on your team.  There’s some truth to that — certainly a larger number of players will react favorably to positive reinforcement — it will keep them more engaged, interested, and willing to come back to kill again.

However, there are a few deviants out there — I happen to be one of them — who react equally well or better when faced with negative reinforcement.  This type of personality tries harder, pushes more, and generally can whip out a stellar A performance right after being told that they are the failures of the universe.

So, what’s a raid leader to do?

Learn the Personalities of Your Raid Team

You will not be able to easily decide which raid members will wilt under a criticism and which will bear up and perform.  Until you know, it’s generally best to use the sugar method, congratulating your team at every turn — if you can’t think of something — congratulate them for living as long as they did, or that the boss is down to 35% before you wiped — anything will work for true positive people — they just want to hear “good job.”

Know Your Own Faults

Raid leaders themselves tend to fall into the sugar or vinegar category.

If you’re a sugar coater, just know, you’re making your vinegar raiders roll their eyes and think you’re a great big carebear.  They’ll still perform, but they probably won’t respect your instructions — a bad place to be.  Make sure if you have massive, over-ramping fail on a fight, that you mention it.  In order to not deter your sugary raid members, keep it relaxed and easy-going.

We need more dps in phase 3.

Healers need to focus on the main tank when he enrages.

If you can generalize, that’s great — the sugars won’t feel like they are being persecuted, and the vinegars will assume that they need to do more.

If you’re an acid churning machine ready to unleash the fail-speech anytime raid performance is not up to par — watch out!  Unless you have a 100% vinegar team you will burnout your sugars quickly.  There are some things that you can do to appease your sugars and keep them performing for you.  Most importantly, if you’re on a binge rant, send a /tell to your favorite sugar telling him what a great job he did.  You won’t want to — it goes against every grain in your vinegar drenched body, but that sugar will remember it and perform for you.

Surprise Works Wonders

Nothing will put the shock into your raiders more than changing your normal teddy-bear lead style into a snarling savage or a spewing complainer extolling the virtues of the team.

It is o.k. to tell your raid team that they are not at par or to speak with a raider about his faults in executing a fight.

The first part of that can be done over vent — if you are a calm sugar coater, just not giving your team any positive reinforcement on a fight will be a clear indicator that they are underperforming.  Add on top of that specific points of contention — “We need x, y, and z to happen on time!” — will likely shock your sweeties into a state of slight, frenzied panic.  Sending a /tell to individual raiders about problems they are having with the raid is an acceptable way to resolve long-standing issues, and to clear up confusion.  Sometimes people don’t even realize they are having a problem until someone makes matters more personal than general raid strategy.

Praise should be given without reservation when mastering new fights, or when a fight is executed perfectly.

Vinegary raid leaders tend to expect perfection.  Since it is expected, when perfection is achieved, it seems to garner minimal interest or commentary.  This is a mistake.  Even vinegary raid members like a “well done” pat on the back from time to time — they are willing and more than happy to take an oratory beating after every fight in order to get it — but that does not mean they should never hear praise.  Your raiders may not know what happened to their normally spiky raid lead, but they will appreciate the sugar, and be more than happy to take back your vinegar on the next fight.

Make Your Raid Fun

This is going to be different for everyone.  These are some examples that different raid leaders used — you will have to really get to know your raid team and be a MEMBER (not just a leader) of that team to really keep the spark alive in your own team.  Whether you lead by sugar or vinegar, you should still have fun!

Unless you raided with me at some point, some of these will make no sense, but they WERE part of the giggles in vent — just trust me.

  • “Fun” hats for ready checks
  • Funeral litany for the death of Mr. Bigglesworth
  • -.-
  • Pulling the dungeon and everyone leaving as the sole /afk member eats it (It wasn’t me… honest!)
  • Having an /afk member on /follow get dragged back to the entrance… or left in the slimes (/sigh, yes, it was me)
  • Bear butt in the food
  • Battle rez rotation for your favorite dps

Trust Yourself

You should know your own strengths and weaknesses as a raid leader — you should definitely know if you’re a sugar or a vinegar.  Totally changing your raid lead style will be off-putting and confusing for your raiders, but modifying your leadership style to connect with more of your members — and to put more fun in your raid — can help strengthen your raiding team.  As you learn your raiders, keep in mind their sugar or vinegar tendencies, and keep them motivated in the way that works best for THEM.  If you’re a sugar, don’t change it — but make sure your /tells are getting to  your vinegars noting their deficiencies.  Same goes for you vinegars!  If you have sugars, treat them right, send them some /tells of encouragement, and you will have a stronger and more stable team.


Lack of Progression

Ever have one of those days?  weeks?  Hell, a whole month?

One day you are rapidly knocking down content — you find door #3, you open it, there’s a monster, and you smash it until there is nothing left but some trifles (epics!!!) in the corner — and then, the mojo is gone.  Your raid team doesn’t know the meaning of the word RAID or TEAM and you spend the night thinking…

Maybe I should take up knitting.  I haven’t washed my hair today — that’d be way more fun than dying for the fifteenth time tonight on a boss that was on farm a month ago.

What Not to Do at Your Next Fail Raid

  • Do not show up at your raider’s doorstep holding their puppy/kitten hostage and threatening to perform horrible acts of torture to said cute, fuzzy animal unless they show up with their raid faces…. and take some Prozac if this seemed like an acceptable solution
  • Do not give your raiders a thirty minute “pep talk” that consists of telling them how much they fail and your utter disgust with their pixellated avatars still wasting your bandwidth… it’s not peppy, it’s not fun, and chances are you’ll lose some raiders
  • Unless you have a guild scapegoat — yes, they will know who they are before the shit ever hits the fan — do not find one.
  • If you are a raid leader or guild officer you are not allowed to quit the raid or the guild because things are tough.  It’s tempting — but you will precipitate the beginning of the end of your guild.
  • If for some reason you’re one of those guilds that has actual punishments for poor raiding performance (DKP MINUS!) replace a raid slot before bankrupting your raider’s account — just sayin’.
  • Do not revert to giving out raid strategies like you’re talking to a bunch of 2 year olds… yes, I know they have the motor control of a bunch of toddlers at the moment, but talking like they are will not help them push the buttons better.

So What CAN I Do?

  • Call a break.  If your raiders can’t discover their inner zen by having a smoke, grabbing a drink, or unloading that awesome chili dog from lunch, it may just be a bad raid night.
  • Take a look at replacing some heads — no one likes replacing people during a raid.  However, sometimes people come tired, stressed, and totally not in the mood.  Sometimes, you, oh mighty leader of the raid, made some poor choices in putting together the group — 7 paladins?  Maybe some of the problem isn’t fail raiders it’s poor composition.
  • Try a different boss.  Wiping time after time (especially on farm content) is frustrating for everyone.  Take a step back, kill something else, get the good mojo going, then come back and smash the thing.
  • Take a focused look at who is showing regularly for raids.  Chances are, your farm content team is not the team showing up to raid.  If that’s the case, you may be carrying raiders who are 1) too weak to be on your regular raiding team, 2) are green behind the ears on the content, or 3) have genuine gear / character issues which must be resolved outside the raid.  You can either train your “backup” team who’s showing up regularly enough to fill your raid slots or recruit — choose wisely.
  • Raid till you wipe — if you’re stuck in a rut of wiping on farm content, sometimes this tip helps keep raiders focused in and interested in doing a good job to get to new content.  If you wipe, you call the raid, that simple.  Should be used sparingly.
  • Cancel a raid week.  This makes progression raiders cry and casual raiders standing around on raid night going “WTF do I do now???”  This is a clear message from the leadership that you are tired too — tired of being responsible for getting a group together, energized and ready to go, only to end up frustrated and feeling rejected by the very people you’re trying to lead.  Should be used sparingly.

Raiding angst is a part of the WoW experience for most raiders that I’ve talked to who actually persist with a regular raiding team for any amount of time.  Learning how to effectively manage your team — whether they be burned out, just don’t get it, or totally new — can be the making or breaking of raiding for your guild.  In my experience, very few people deal well with constant exposure to critiques and criticisms, and will happily transfer their character to a different guild if they feel uncomfortable with their position in the guild.

If you are an officer involved with coordinating raiding for your guild, be aware that raiding is as important for your raiders as it is for you (for the most part).  People in raiding guilds like to raid — they want the camaraderie and accomplishment of raiding just as much as you do!  However, if progress stalls for an inconsiderable amount of time, you will be held responsible by your raiders — as a person in a position of authority with the ability to make changes to raid times/recruitment status/raid slots you are expected to tackle any problems preventing the raid team from moving forward.

Here’s hoping that you never have to tell your raiders to not stand in the fire.

Happy Holiday!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!  I plan on being out of town and out of touch for the next few days.

If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, don’t despair — enjoy your game time without your compatriots — we’ll be back fatter and happier than before in just a few hours or days.

A New (Old) Way to Pug

Ever invited a tank to your group to discover, oh, btw, they don’t have 535 defense — or you need a priest for Naxx 10, and they SAY they have 1500 spellpower… but they really mean when raid buffed, not self buffed.

With Cladhaire’s LFM Sniffer you can do an inspection of talents and stats without ever leaving the comfort of your cozy Dalaran inn — and you don’t have to do any last minute scrambles to find new members either.  Simply hover over a potential member in looking for group interface or shift click to create a move-able box.

Non-configurable, with a single slash command to activate/deactivate, let your next party formation be a little more stress-free!

Deathknight On Vacation

I’ll admit it here and now for the first time in the history of my many years on the planet. I am fallible. I know…it was a shock to my wife too (although she took it stoically).

I have never before leveled and played end game with the same class so close together. My first priest hit 60 in pre-bc and it was 2+ years before I played another to 80. I still have much left to do with my Deathknight and much more to share with you all, but for the moment my attentions have been distracted by the beefy little blue man that can summon the power of the elements to do his bidding. I mean seriously… all a deathknight can do is slap things with his sword, shamans get totems…TOTEMS!

As you may have guessed by now I have delved into the land of the ‘pure ones’. I created a little Draenai shaman named Gahmble. He’s a cute little bugger with just the most adorable little….um…jowels. He stands about 6 foot 14 inches and towers over all but the mightiest Tauren. Being on a roleplay server its only fitting to inform you all that his favorite food is also lasagna, and he likes long walks on the beach crushing crabs betwixt his toes.

I took a bunch of recommendations from Windsoar on the types of addons to use and what might get me the furthest the fastest. I am the worlds laziest leveler, I’ll admit. I’ve done it too many times to be caught up in the thrill of a new quest. Now, I just see another exclamation point pop up after I’ve just worked SO HARD to get rid of that question mark, that all I can say is…”another one?…sigh…” and trudge off to complete another ‘get my kitty out of a tree’ quest…or whatever the local people cant manage to do for themselves today. I swear Azeroth is peopled with the laziest vermin I’ve ever seen.

So the same thing happened this time that happens most times I choose a character name. I have an absolutely fantastic name in mind when I start out and quickly find out its already taken. Not only is it taken but every possible spelling or recreation of the name is taken. Even spelling it phonetically is already taken. I start putting in a few lesser names that would be ok. And……taken, all of them. I start putting in hilarious names that catch my mind — taken. In rage I grab the first name in my brain and type it in, just to prove a point. “Every name in the world is taken!” ….accepted.

Of course, lovely, thank you wow gods. Now I have to deal with this name for 80 levels and beyond.  Oh well.

Starting off in the land of the squid was actually a lot easier than last time. First I had been there before and second I had Windsoars nifty neat-o “Tourguide” recommendation. It has been a lifesaver for a slacker-leveler like myself. My only gripe is it doesn’t constantly communicate map points to my tom-tom addon, so I cant just follow the arrow everywhere. But it in tandem with my questhelper addon has answered just about any question I could have had about ‘where do I go now?’

After a few times going my own way — against the recommendations of the tourguide — taking extra time going to the same place a few times wasting valuable killing time walking, I realized just to listen to the guide and go with the flow. It really does know what its talking about for the most part. I’m fairly impressed.

Back to Gahmble — I don’t know if anybody has ever told you about this, but….shamans only get to wear leather before level 40. I mean that’s hardly any step at all up from being a glass cannon, and I don’t even get to hit as hard as a mage. Maximum range for my lightning bolt is turning into my best friend. If I can get a few choice shots in before the combat really starts, I’m golden.

So to make a long arduous session of leveling into a much shorter story. I’ve followed my tourguide meticulously for the last number of levels and made some serious progress. Within just a few evenings of playing after my wife goes to sleep for the night I’ve managed to make it to the mighty level 30. I hear things get pretty interesting from this point on.

Few key things I’ve come to love and realize. First, Gift of the Naaru (that twinky little self heal that drenai get) is a fantastic spell up until about level 25, after that all its really doing is help keep my resting/down time to a minimum. I guess I can be thankful, but…isn’t that really what first aid is for?

Second, enhancement shamans don’t really get anything to back up that swagger before level 30. I think I might have been better off having leveled this far as elemental. I guess I’ll never know.

Third, nobody is awake at 4 in the morning on my server that plays an engineer. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a bronze tube.

I think I see more leveling and enjoying of my little shaman in the near future. They say write what you love, so I think ill stick with this for a while. Maybe my deathknight will have become just another jaded alt…

…Maybe not…

Information Overload

I put myself on the block this week for Blog Azeroth’s weekly topic (even though I think I formatted the topic and question incorrectly).  Please make sure to check out other contributions to this topic, and support the bloggers of WoW.

World of Warcraft is a long-standing game — in the MMO community it has become a standard of what an MMO should provide to its player-base; if you disagree, you can merely look at the plethora of MMO’s that have sprung up following the release of WoW that follow many of the models — from the action bar to the quest tracker — that were first introduced here.

WoW’s impact hasn’t stopped with other MMO’s, however, it has also affected how gaming, its player base, and the online community (the interwebs people!) talk about, view and dissect a game that affects millions of people.  In the early days of WoW, it was just another MMO on the scene — the Blizzard tag caught player’s like me who had played it before, but gradually word was getting past the computer gaming community into the larger gaming community, and then, even to non-gamers.

As such, the initial impact on internet activity was pretty much non-existent.  Like other MMO’s, if people wanted guild websites, they built them, or found a free forum host.  If people wanted to know a strat for a monster, they might create ties with other guilds, talk to a raid leader for a more progressed guild, or even roll up on another server to speak with a guild that HAD downed the beast.  Entire websites dedicated to WoW topics were nil — boss strategies were not readily available, and class sites were few and far between — Shadowpanther is one of the oldest information websites that I am aware of, and I still have it bookmarked for great *ninja-vanish* information.

Oh, the times they have a changed.  Thottbot was the first real outside information service for quests, item drops, and the like.  If it wasn’t on Thottbot, chances were, it hadn’t been discovered… yet!  Popularity for this type of information became readily apparently, and other services started to provide item and spell databases, forums became dedicated to different World of Warcraft classes, and bloggers stretched their toes, relating their experiences and offering advice to new players.

In essence, the WoW community has spawned websites all over the internet — and some of it, is simply too much!

The Good

I love forums, blogs, and community sites for sharing information.  Part of the allure of the early thottbot, and the continuing model found in Wowhead is the ability for players to manage the information — to share their experiences, frustrations, and tips with other players.  Players helping players = awesome.

The fact that there is so much information available about specs, gems, glyphs, quests, rep grinding and the like is a great boon to me and I’m sure many other players.  Do we always follow this advice?  Hell no!  But at least in having a baseline for understanding why people are making the choices they do with their characters, we can be better leaders, players, and friends.

Likewise, the news sites that filter through the mess that is the WoW forums in order to bring me relevant blue responses — I cherish these.  When a mod makes the choice to share information with the community I want to know about it!  However, I don’t want to spend my life ciphering through posts attempting to make sure I don’t miss a good response because the last 50 were “We’ll see.”

I also read a ton of articles on how new sets will look, or how the user interface is changing.  You wear set gear a LONG time.  While it’s not that important — I can wear my party dress in town if I hate it — how I look is integral to how I feel about my character, and I want to know I’m going to be happy!  Same thing with UI changes — I run a lot of addons, I’ve made pretty substantial changes to the ‘intended’ look and feel of my user interface, and I love to see when Blizzard follows the community and implements my well-loved friends into the default UI.

The Bad

That being said, oh how I hate the endless parade of information that is readily available some days.

Like many others, I played on the Wrath beta — I wanted to take a look at the paladin changes (which were extensive) and I also played around with a DK… well more than played, I dinged 80.  However, because of my experiences in beta, I have yet to play a DK more than a couple of levels since release.  I already “leveled” the character, tanked and dps’ed in instances, and really, feel no need to play another until I get bored leveling those alts I haven’t done yet — the beta experience took away some of the glitter of playing a DK live.

In the same way, the massive amount of sharing can destroy some of the fun of new dungeon experiences.  Our guild did not play PTR prior to Ulduar, even knowing we wanted to progress quickly.  Why, oh why would we do that with so many guilds offering insights on bosses, strats, even videos on how the mechanics of fights work?  Because we wanted to experience the game!  Understanding every mechanic of a fight before looking the monster in the face is a lot like reading Game FAQs to me.

I like Game FAQs, I’m happy the service is available, but I don’t read up on a game until I’ve beaten it once.  I want to beat the game — I want to accomplish that feat on my own.  While you can’t ‘beat’ an MMO, you sure as heck can beat a boss!  And figuring out a viable strategy and mechanics of a fight is part of that experience for me.  Frankly, nothing irks me more than stopping at a boss and the raid lead saying “go check out the tankspot video before we start.”  No sir, I will not!  If we can’t get him down tonight, I’ll do some reading and come back prepared tomorrow, but I do not spend my first night on a boss “prepared” — I play the game to learn the fights, not have them mastered when I walk in.

In the same way I assiduously avoid loot lists.  As a min-maxer, this is very hard for me — I want to evaluate and plan out my gear sets as much as possible.  On the other hand, it feels like — cheatery.  It may not be, I know many will feel that it is not, but honestly, what the boss drops, the boss drops, and I am capable of making gearing decisions based on what I have available, what I have in my bags, and what the raid just retrieved off the smelly guy on the floor.  I love to go “oh…my….God….” when I see something truly epic drop, but when you read a loot list — you’re not surprised, you don’t get to be shocked and awed and excited — you’re just looking to see if that piece of loot is on your list.

What Do You Think?

I don’t often ask for reader feedback, because, well, I’m expounding my views most days 😛 However, on this issue, I really feel like I’m an odd fish as it were in the sea of information.

What do you see as the pros and cons of the information sites available about WoW?  Which type of sites do you prefer for your WoW information?  Do you want to be prepared before you see a boss or loot, or does it feel like rampant cheatery?

Weekly Reading

Some interesting reads happening about and around the blogging community  — I’ve been smartly using my nifty bookmark feature this week — so free reading material for you!

Although I hemmed and hawed about making a post on the Blog Azeroth weekly shared topic, I finally am firmly on the haw side after reading the posting done by the ladies over at  Hots & Dots (who originally proposed the topic).  While I’ve liked a lot of changes — mostly they’re ephemereal and would’ve made a long and dodgy post — the top 10 list summed up a lot of the changes I would’ve liked to talk about!

Tamarind at Righteous Orbs discusses the seedy dark-side of loot trading in his two part post (part one, part two) — covering the phenemonen of loot trades, why we do it, when it’s appropriate, and how we should feel about it — although I’ve been to busy to comment yet, I thought both parts were a great read.  After the fact note: It seems part two has come down, but it was actually my favored of the two — perhaps Tam will decide to put up something again re: the after effects and the questions players should be asking themselves about how loot is distributed in non-guild settings.

Although I linked to it earlier in the week it was rather randomly located, and it was such an epic-good rant, I thought it deserved a second look.  Only since Wrath have 10 & 25 man raids been on the same progression path (bosses) with different rewards (iLvl loot) — it isn’t a whine, it isn’t a “we’re just as good as those 25-man raiders, we want phat lootz,” it is an honest look at how 10 man and 25 man raiding interact with each other and the impact on players who solely focus on 10-man raiding for progression and how that interaction could be made better.

Have you ever wanted to smite things?  No, no, not with a big mace, with a flame of divine providence streaking from the sky!  Xel at Holy Fire Spec can help you with that — now with a guide from 1-80.  Holy moly indeed.

If you missed the Shattered Sun Offensive experience Elsen has a great rep grinding guide for you.

The DPS meme has finally taken off, and DKDeathGoddess, the originator, is keeping a fine tally of the responses.

Ever feel like WoW is toying with your sensibilities?  Foisting off half-baked dungeon and raid ideas just to see how you, the player, will handle it?  Naithan thought so too — find out what he thinks about being a guinea pig.

And finally, Matticus managed to get two saves on my list this week — one is a service announcement that I think everyone should pass on, and the second is an interesting pickle for healing leaders.  Even if you don’t manage healing assignments for your raid or group you should still check out this scenario — not only will it help you understand the roles of your healers better, but it may help you make fast decisions in a pinch if the healing lead decides to take the night off!

And if you haven’t bookmarked Postcards from Azeroth yet, you really should — here’s a nice preview (because everyone loves dragons, right?!)